TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | July 23
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In case you missed it…

Is privacy dead?
Photo: Photo by ev on Unsplash

As more and more apps and services collect our data, the Financial Times asks if privacy is dead. Wonder what Bulgarian tax-payers think about that argument as personal data belonging to nearly every tax-payer was stolen in a cyber-attack on the country’s tax agency, with the purported suspect calling the government’s cyber-security standards “a parody.” The Trusted Data Sharing Framework launched by the Singaporean government may be a reference to other governments on their responsibility to protect data and foster growth in their digital economies.
An investigation by Privacy International (PI) highlighted how certain apps like Spotify and DuoLingo have sent user data to Facebook, automatically and without user consent. PI states that while using the General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) complaint mechanism can be effective, speaking directly to these app developers is also a very effective step in getting them to adopt better data practices.
Ultimately, this should improve their practices around consent, data-sharing and user privacy, right?
Or wrong. What happens when aid is dependent on biometric data collection? In the case of the trial project launched in Tanzania and Bangladesh, thousands of children will be fingerprinted to track their vaccination information. While Gavi, the vaccine company behind the effort promised to apply data protection standards equivalent to the GDPR, the use of biometrics in aid raises some serious red flags according to some critics. Research lead at Data & Society, Mark Latonero, highlights some serious potential problems with tying biometrics to aid. Using the conflict in Yemen as an example, he discussed how a name misspelling could prevent aid delivery for intended recipients.
Speaking of the GDPR, Ariane Adam makes a case for more acceptance of the regulation one year after implementation. Adam argues that the GDPR is more friend than foe of the open data movement as it will enhance public confidence and the ability to share data in a risk-reduced way.


Room for improvement

Thomas Carothers highlights in his latest piece how the United States has slowly withdrawnfrom global leadership in democracy, while other countries have stepped up to collectively fill the void. But the US hasn’t disappeared from all international fora, as 30 of the largest international donors agreed to a new reporting system and standards for sexual harassment and abuse. Documents uncovered by the OCCRP show how monies for a farming project in South Sudan were used for weapons procurement paint a bleaker picture, as a suspected oil company involved wasn’t named, shamed, nor blacklisted in a US Treasury Department sanctions announcement. The Center for Global Development (CGD) did some investigative work themselves on the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) and thinks the agency could do a bit more work on “results claims”.
Troubling to hear that of all the funding for civil society, only 2.1% is directly going to CSOs in the Global South. Meanwhile, Global North based INGOs are soaking up the funding and contracting out project implementation to those same CSOs in the Global South. What steps can help correct this mismatch?
The Open Contracting Partnership recently sent an open letter in cooperation with FullFact, Institute of Government, Open Knowledge Foundation, 360Giving, Open Data Institute, Nesta, Royal Statistical Society, King’s College London, and mySociety calling upon the UK government to “overhaul its use of data.” Maybe the UK government can reach out to creators of Dozorro, Centre UA, and Social Boost in Ukraine to see how they use data for positive change in Ukraine.


Digital taxation dominoes

States have been losing out on taxes through legal tax avoidance policies for years now. Are France and Britain’s forthcoming digital service taxation schemes the first tax avoidance dominoes to fall? Good news for governments as new data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) on financial accounts is improving tax compliance and delivering concrete results for governments worldwide. Bad news for tax defaulters as the AEOI has “uncovered ‘a deep pool’ of offshore funds that can now be taxed by authorities worldwide.”
After 10 years of disappointment and disarray in the South African Parliamentary Budget Office, Sean Mfundza Muller thinks the new Parliament and President offer the opportunity to fix things up. Maybe the office can read Saanya Jain’s piece for inspiration on proper parliamentary action on cross border corruption, foreign bribery, tax evasion and related illicit financial flows.
Debt restructuring, not debt jubilee argues Jaime Atienza of Oxfam Intermón as half of African Low-Income Countries are either in debt distress or at high risk of being so. Global Financial Integrity (GFI) shows that Egypt lost approximately 4.1 ($1.6 Billion) percent of its revenue in 2016 to trade misinvoicing (see the July 16 TAI Weekly for more on GFI trade misinvoicing). As IBP is ringing the alarm and stating governments simply aren’t spending enough money to reach the SDGs, maybe it’s a sign for Egypt and others to crackdown on trade misinvoicing.
As Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt vie to become UK’s next prime minister, Johnson has launched a campaign against “sin taxes”, like those on alcohol and tobacco to cut back on “the nanny state.” The British Medical Journal (BMJ) offers some guidance for civil society to fight back on this argument here.


Ignore civic engagement at your peril

Recently, we covered how a coal plant was going to be built in Kenya’s Lamu County. A new court ruling overturned the construction license decision stating the National Environmental Management Agency failed to “properly engage the public….” But the fight is not over yet. International Budget Partnership’s Jason Lakin explains how activists can learn from similar cases going forward. Pair that article with this article in OpenCanada explaining how Indigenous law has been twice disregarded on pipeline projects but offers a roadmap for indigenous and state laws to coexist going forward. Despite the differences in these two communities, maybe there is something they can learn from each other.
“Latin America’s State-run Oil Giants Are Struggling” says The Economist, highlighting Venezuela’s Petroleos de Venezuela as an example. Perhaps they and other state oil companies can read this article by the EITI which makes the business case for State Owned Enterprise (SOE) transparency. What can increased transparency bring to these SOEs? Improved relations and trust with their stakeholders, which include both private corporations and a country’s citizens.


Learning never stops

The International Federation for Human Rights released a statement documenting the civic space abuses in Cambodia, from jailing journalists to undue NGO staff harassment by law enforcement. Cambodian activists could learn something from the Public Social Accountability Monitor’s (PSAM) new newsletter, which poses the headline “Innovation Through Adversity – Closing Civic Space, Social Media, and Social Accountability”. If governments are looking to mend fences with their populace after a history of crushing civil society, they might read Duncan Green’s blog on how societies rebuild trust with leaders.
Anti-corruption measures, much like shoes, are not one size fits all. Shocking, we know. Curious to learn more about anti-corruption practices? Read this blog at Tufts, outlining the biggest challenges and some good practices. USAID and UK Research and Innovation are also keen to share best practices and do so here. They provided a detailed overview of their workshop aimed at sharing best practices on measuring the impact of research for development (we know this isn’t too recent, but feel it was important nonetheless!).
Learned a lot from your project impact assessment? Feel it’s time to expand the scope of work but are unsure of how? Check out this article on incentivizing adaptive management.
Lastly, Civio, an investigative journalism outlet from Spain, just released their 2018 Annual Report. They were awarded the best journalistic work in the field of Data Science in 2018! Certainly, much to learn from them!


Long read

We’ve got two long reads for you this week, the first is on Mining Arbitration in Africa. This publication discusses recent mining law reforms in Africa, joint venture investing, disputes on the undercapitalization of joint venture and the growing prevalence of environmental issues in arbitration proceedings.

Next, there’s Digital Tools for Citizens’ Assemblies. By citing two reports, Citizens Assembly on the Eighth Amendment and Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, Alex Parsons explains how digital tools can be used to improve the flow of information into and out of Citizens’ Assemblies as well as the organization and proceedings of assembly meetings.


TAI Spotlight: Shrinking Civic Space: A case for regional solutions for global threats

Shrinking Civic Space: A case for regional solutions for global threats | TAI
By examining the societal challenges facing Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Kenya, former TAI Communications fellow, Edith Mecha, advocates for localized solutions as a means of empowering them to achieve their full potential.

Reflecting on the Global Conference for Media Freedom | Luminate
Nishant Lalwani reflects on the UK’s recent Media Freedom conference and calls for action instead of more diagnoses – we know press freedom is declining, but now it’s time to act.

Fay Twersky named vice president of Hewlett Foundation | Hewlett Foundation
After serving as founder of Hewlett’s Effective Philanthropy Group since 2012, Fay Twersky has been named Vice President of the Hewlett Foundation.

A New Global Hub for PB Practitioners and Advocates | Hewlett Foundation
The Participatory Budgeting Project has just received a $560,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to launch a new global hub for PB practitioners and advocates. PB implementers, advocates, and researchers are invited to apply to serve as a Global PB Hub board member.

Promoting Accountability and Transparency in Nigeria | MacArthur Foundation
MacArthur Foundation Board Member Julie Katzman speaks to CNBC Africa on the importance of promoting accountability and transparency in Nigeria.


*Don’t forget to check out the Open Gov Stories Global Podcast Series with Open Gov Hub. It goes behind the scenes to explore why social changemakers do the work they do. Listen to more than 20 stories from people in the TAP field – new ones to come each month. Plus you can record and add your own.